Dmitri Kazjonnov. Photo: Russian Consulate in Narva
Reede, 02 Juuni 2017 18:09
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 22 2017
For Consul General Dmitri Kazjonnov and Consul Sergei Surgajev, May 26 was not an ordinary working day in Narva. That's when they were informed by diplomatic note told that they were being declared persona non grata by Estonia.
This abrupt undertaking by the Estonian Foreign Ministry was for reasons perfectly clear to them but not released to the public. If past experience is to be a guide, then expulsions of this ilk are usually executed as a consequence of exposed espionage activity. Neither the Estonian Foreign Ministry nor the National Security Police are willing to officially comment on the circumstances.
However, different sources indicate that the actitivty that triggered the Estonian decision was not necessarily linked to operations of the Russian intelligence services. Sources close to the circumstances state that the two diplomats had recently met with the mayor of Kiviõli (near Narva), Nikolai Vojeikin. It was said that the attitude of the consuls had been 'arrogant, insolent', therefore insulting.
It dealt with a May 16 incident when the message "These murderers bombed my grandmother. May they burn in hell," had been painted on a monumment to the crew of a Pe-2 Soviet aircraft that had been shot down over Estonia in 1944. The monument is situated on the property of Sarkis Tatevosjan who is the local leader of Soviet army veterans and a member of a Russian compatriots organization.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned that its response to the expulsions will be 'adequate'. "The obviously hostile behaviour increases the harm to our problematic bilateral relationship, which Tallinn has intensified by this unjustified provocation. Estonian must be accountable for any subsequent consequences."
Konstantin Kossatov, the chair of the foreign relations commission of the upper chamber of the Russian Duma was more concrete in his evaluation of the situration. He indicated that the expulsions were a continuation of an anti-Russian strategy, to irritate Russia, to heighten tensions and to provoke a Russian reaction. This is all to remind Europe and NATO of the danger of good Russian-Western relations so as to maintain financial, military and financial support of the USA.
The expulsiojns were covered by all the main Russian media outlets: Interfax, Kommersant, Lenta, Vesti, Novaja, Gazeta, NewsRU, Sputnik and Ria Novosti. The Western mainline media included The New York Timeas, ABC News, Reuters, The Washington Post, Deutsche Welle and Dagbladet.
At the time of the expulsion of the Russian consuls, Voyeikin, the mayor of Kiviõli had not been interviewed by the security police. Thus it's reasonable to ask whether Estonia's decision to expel the diplomats was based solely on the 'arrogance' of the Russian diplomats as explained by the mayor?
It's known that the consuls had demanded the monument be moved from private property to a nearby cemetery. The municipal administration of Kiviõli and it's city council had already rejected previous similar proposals stating that they had no legal bases for undertaking this. Since there has been no indication that local Kiviõli authorities take this type of vandalism and desecration of monuments lightly, then the forceful insistence by the Russian Federation representatives that both administrative and council decisions be reveresed can logically be taken as Moscow's blatant (and, yes arrogant) involvement in Estonia's domestic affairs. Meddling with another country's sovereignty is sufficient justification for such a drastic diplomatic decision.
In practise, expulsions usually involve middle level diplomats. Expelling a consul-general is taken very seriously. Also most expulsions are caused by the discovery of attemps to recruit foreign officials, to obtain classified information etc. This case can clearly be seen as one of using the leverage of 'patriotism' to influence decisions of foreign offcials. It's something that fits well with the goals of Russia's Compatriots' program.
It's fully expected that Russia will find retribution of sorts. Prosecution is not an option becasuse accredited diplomats enjoy diplomatic immunities. It'll be interesting to see who they choose to expell, knowing that the number of staff of the Estonian embassy in Moscow is much smaller than the number of Russian diplomats accredited to Estonia. Usually they find subjects for expulsion whom will cause maximum inconvenience and irritation for the country involved irregardless of the importance of the 'transgression' caused by these subjects. Russians don't always play the 'tit-for-tat' game.
As of this column going to print, Moscow released the names of the two Estonian diplomats being declared persona non grata by Russia as a response to the expulsion of two Russian consuls from Narva a week before: Jaanus Kirikmäe, Consul Gneral in St. Petersburg and Katrin Kanarik, Director of Consular services in Pihkva. Moscow's response seemed to be within traditional norms equivalency.Laas Leivat